Grant Shapps, a United Kingdom government minister, said it would be “irresponsible” to continue investing in a new high-speed train line if the nation’s “fiscal picture” has changed.
The defence secretary made his remarks after numerous reports said that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was considering abandoning the enormous HS2 rail project, which has seen costs soar.
A wave of severe strikes affecting every sector of the economy, from physicians to train drivers, has resulted from the rise in housing and food prices in the United Kingdom.
The ongoing Ukraine war and other recent issues have put a strain on the nation’s defence budget.
According to Grant Shapps, “There are a number of different estimates, and I think that’s one of the things that the government wants to check, particularly on the costs now that the war in Ukraine has resulted in inflationary trends.”
“I have to say that it would be irresponsible to simply spend the money and carry on as if nothing had changed if there has been a change in that fiscal picture,” he continued.
The cost of the HS2 project, which aims to connect London with the major towns in the north of England, was originally projected to be 37.5 billion pounds (USD 46 billion) in 2013, but it has since risen to about 100 billion pounds.
It will be the country’s second high-speed railway after HS1, which Eurostar uses in southeast England.
Former transport secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News that a choice would be made “in due time.”
However, he added, “There has to be a point at which you say, ‘Hold on a minute, let’s just take a break here'” if expenses continue to rise.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Greater Manchester stated that scrapping the HS2 link from Birmingham and Manchester will be risking ‘ripping the heart’ out of plans to improve rail services across northern England.
Andy Burnham said axing the extension risked creating a “north-south chasm”.
The project risks running into limbo as the Rishi Sunak government has not guaranteed the line will run from the Midlands to the North West.
Rishi Sunak told the media, “Transport infrastructure is a key part of that, but not just big rail projects, but also local projects, improving local bus services, fixing potholes, all of these things make a difference in people’s day-to-day lives.”
Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party is now lagging behind the main opposition Labour Party in surveys, and a general election is anticipated for next year.
The high-speed rail project is intended to link London, the Midlands and the north of England.
Despite the first part between west London and Birmingham being put under the construction phase, the scheme as a whole has been facing delays, cost increases and cuts, including the planned eastern leg between Birmingham and Leeds which was axed in late 2021.
In March 2023, the Sunak government announced that building the line between Birmingham and Crewe, and then onto Manchester, would be delayed for at least two years.